Ten years ago, false allegations of a “massacre” and “war crimes” against
Palestinian civilians in Jenin provided the first example of a new type of
warfare that exploited the principles of human rights. This was the first
application of the strategy developed a few months earlier at the NGO Forum of
2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, (the infamous Durban
In 2009, the “Goldstone Report” on the Gaza War was based on
the strategy used in Jenin.
On April 3, 2002, following the horrendous
Palestinian attack in Netanya at the Passover seder, and other suicide bombings,
the IDF finally launched Operation Defensive Shield – the first major
counter-terrorist operation. Palestinian officials immediately accused the IDF
of committing a “massacre” in the Jenin refugee camp – the center of the terror
operation. In parallel, a number of officials from “human rights” NGOs echoed
these allegations, devoid of any independent investigation.
International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), which were deeply involved in the UN
Durban fiasco, jumped in, immediately repeating the “war crimes” accusations and
demanding the appointment of what they referred to as an “independent
On April 16, Le Monde cited HRW, and on April
18, the BBC quoted Amnesty International (AI) official Derrick Pounder, who
repeated the massacre allegations.
Although Amnesty had no information,
they issued a statement declaring, “The evidence compiled indicates that serious
breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed,
including war crimes.” Like HRW and Palestinian officials, AI also called for an
“independent inquiry.” Other influential NGOs published similar
On May 3, just one month after the operation began, HRW
launched a 50-page “investigative report,” “Jenin: IDF Military Operations,”
based primarily on unverifiable “eyewitness testimony” from Palestinians.
Clearly, no credible analysis could have been produced in this short time, but
the goal was entirely political. Only one sentence mentioned the context of mass
terror, while the rest consisted of clearly false allegations that “IDF military
attacks were indiscriminate... failing to make a distinction between combatants
and civilians...and vastly disproportionate....”
acknowledgment that no massacre occurred was negated by the use of this
demonizing language. The fact that Palestinian leaders had located this terror
center in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood – a clear violation of
moral and legal standards – was erased.
HRW and the other political NGOs
also ignored the IDF decision to use ground forces in this operation, rather
than an air attack, precisely in order to minimize civilian casualties among the
As a result, over 20 Israeli soldiers were killed in
booby-trapped buildings. But, in accordance with their blunt ideological agenda,
HRW leaders such as Kenneth Roth repeated the false allegations that the IDF had
killed civilians indiscriminately.
For the international media, as well
as foreign diplomats, political leaders, academics and others, the allegations
and faux-research reports of NGOs such as HRW and Amnesty were repeated without
question. And every time the allegations were repeated, as occurred in many of
HRW’s 15 press releases and reports condemning Israel published in 2002, this
triggered further rounds of anti-Israel headlines.
In contrast, HRW only
managed to publish a single report – at the end of October 2002 – criticizing
the Palestinian terror campaign that took hundreds of Israeli lives. And even
this publication ignored much of the evidence in order to absolve Yasser Arafat
of responsibility for his direct involvement in mass murder.
campaign accompanied the Islamic bloc’s initiative which resulted in the
appointment of a clearly biased UN “fact-finding team” to “investigate” the
allegations of Israeli war crimes.
As a result, the Israeli government
refused to cooperate. The UN report followed the lead of HRW and other NGOs,
and, as the Israeli government had anticipated, was similarly
This process, from the prejudicial NGO allegations to the
unverifiable and false “evidence”, and with recommendations of legal and other
sanctions against Israel, provided the step-by-step template used by the UN’s
Islamic bloc, in cooperation with HRW and other NGOs to produce the Goldstone
The “Jenin Massacre” proved that the Durban Strategy could be
used successfully to wage political war. The Israeli government and military
were unprepared to defeat this attack. Eventually, the facts began to replace
the myths, but by then, the demonization campaign had already achieved its
goals. On the basis of the Jenin fabrications, the first round of BDS (boycotts,
divestment and sanctions) efforts began.
This template was repeated many
times afterwards, and perfected in the selection of Judge Richard Goldstone (a
confidant of HRW’s Kenneth Roth) to head another pseudo-investigation based
again on NGO allegations and inventions.
But some things have changed in
the past decade.
Belatedly, Goldstone had the courage to acknowledge that
the framework was biased against Israel, and the NGO “evidence” did not support
Some Israeli government officials have developed
counter-strategies, including exposing the moral duplicity of the UN-NGO
alliance. And a small but growing number of responsible journalists and
diplomats acknowledge the serious exploitation of human rights
It took 10 years, but perhaps the lessons of Jenin are
finally being learned.The writer is professor of political studies at
Bar Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research
institution dedicated to promoting universal human rights and to encouraging
civil discussion on the reports and activities of nongovernmental organizations,
particularly in the Middle East.
Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin